Can the metaverse – though still early and undefined – transform the future of work? Meta likes to think so….and so does Generation Z. According to Microsoft, 51% of Gen Z expects to be working in the metaverse in some capacity by 2024. This generation is taking the metaverse seriously at the same time that it’s beginning to enter the workforce.
Here is a look at what the metaverse workplace could look like and Gen Z’s role in it.
The Metaverse: The Ultimate Hybrid Workplace
The metaverse is still a somewhat niche technology in 2022. An estimated 17.7% of Americans own a virtual reality headset while 96% own a smartphone, so there is clearly still a long way for VR to go before it truly becomes a mainstream technology. However, many businesses and tech experts are already eyeing the metaverse as the workplace of the future.
The widespread shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic has created a rift between employees and executives over returning to the office. A hybrid workplace appears to be the solution. The metaverse could be where that takes shape.
Employees want the freedom to work remotely, allowing them to live where they want and have a good work-life balance. Employers want the accountability and culture that comes from working in a physical office space. In the metaverse, both of these realities are possible at the same time. In fact, some businesses are even designing metaverse offices already, ranging from luxurious virtual islands to VR meeting rooms.
The metaverse allows employees to log in from anywhere. There is no commute from home to work, and they can log out to have lunch at home. At the same time, in a virtual office space, co-workers can stop and chat with one another, and managers can easily see who is spending time working when employees’ avatars are logged on.
The metaverse workplace holds so much potential that world leaders are beginning to invest in it big time. For instance, the crown prince of Dubai announced a groundbreaking plan in 2022 to develop that country’s metaverse industry through 2030, ultimately leading to 40,000 new metaverse jobs and adding $4 billion to the economy.
Why the Metaverse Workplace Is Perfect for Gen Z
Why is the metaverse workplace particularly appealing to Gen Z? The first and most obvious reason is their relationship with technology in general. Gen Z consists of people born from 1997 through roughly 2012. They do not remember a time before the internet, are intuitively familiar with technology, and can adapt to new technologies.
Gen Z is beginning to enter the workforce, and some trends about their expectations are appearing that align well with a metaverse workplace. A survey by Deloitte found that adaptability and flexibility were the most important employee characteristics for Gen Z, with creativity and technological savvy close behind.
Many Gen Z students are interested in tech-related careers and pursuing higher levels of education than previous generations. This is even driving more MBA programs to develop STEM-focused degrees to help meet demand among Gen Z. This generation is also known for its independence. They expect a strong work-life balance in any career.
Gen Z expects a flexible workplace with plenty of perks, including a good work-life balance and high wages. They also want to work closely with technology, which is a core part of their everyday lives. A hybrid workplace in the metaverse could be the perfect way to simultaneously deliver all these needs. Since Gen Z is already so accustomed to working with technology, they will likely adapt to a virtual office environment much faster than their older co-workers.
Gen Z and Life in the Metaverse
Gen Z is expecting to do much more than just go to work in the metaverse. A 2022 report from McKinsey found that Gen Z and millennials expect to spend an average of at least 4.7 hours a day in the metaverse within the next five years, more than any other generation. It is worth noting that while VR adoption is still relatively low compared to other mainstream technologies, the metaverse is taking shape in various ways.
For instance, games like “Fortnite” and “Roblox,” both of which are extremely popular among Gen Z, are already calling themselves part of the metaverse. However, they are primarily played on phones and PCs. Additionally, metaverse concerts are beginning to pop up more often, featuring some of today’s biggest artists like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and 21 Pilots.
Shopping is expected to boom in the metaverse, as well, with players paying to customize their avatars just like they would their wardrobe in real life. Gen Z is more likely than any other generation to pay for digital-only goods, such as in-game or avatar items. In fact, major brands are beginning to create metaverse product lines geared toward Gen Z, such as Nike’s “Roblox” world Nikeland, where players can try on in-game merchandise and play branded games.
Is the Metaverse the Future of Work?
All these factors clearly indicate that Gen Z is already shaping the future of the internet in the form of the metaverse. Brands and employers are beginning to notice and adapt to this new era of technological transformation. Gen Z is a large, diverse generation, making up an estimated 20.3% of the U.S. population. They will shape the future of work and the future of the office as they begin to enter the workforce.
Physical offices are unlikely to go extinct anytime soon, but the metaverse is likely the future of work. It provides a clear solution to the remote vs. office workplace debate, and Gen Z has the technological savvy to make it a widespread reality. Even if jobs do not shift completely to the metaverse, meetings will likely become more common there over the next two to five years.
Gen Z will spend more of their time in the metaverse — socially, financially, and physically — and they will expect more aspects of their daily lives to also take place there, including work. Soon enough, coming into the office may be as simple as slipping on a VR headset and logging into the office metaverse world.
When Will the Metaverse Workplace Be Real?
Gen Z has always been a generation that propels the world toward change, whether in terms of social activism or technological advancements. The traditional office will begin to blend with the new metaverse workplace as this digital-native generation enters the workforce, allowing for seamless hybrid work.
This change is already underway in 2022, albeit still in its infancy. By 2030, the idea of VR meetings and digital offices will likely no longer be a concept of the future but the new normal.
April Miller is a senior writer at ReHack Magazine and editorial contributor at AR Insider. She specializes in VR/AR, IoT, and business technology. See her work here and follow her @rehackmagazine.